RENTAL APPLICATIONS: BE CAREFUL OF DISCRIMINATION!!!

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Fair Housing laws are very important to keep up on for both property owners and managers.  The slightest form of discrimination can be a serious offence in the real estate sector.

In this post I’m more going to touch on rental applications.  Managing apartments in New York City, I’ve become cognizant to the rules, especially in rent-stabilized properties.  I remember working under a Property Manager who could not understand that their way of giving an application could cause serious trouble.  First of all, no one should be denied a rental application if they request it.  Even before knowing this rule, I personally felt like everyone had a right to apply for an apartment they wanted.  Didn’t necessarily mean that they would be approved, but nothing tried nothing done.  Right?

Also, be very careful with questions on children.  The particular manager I worked under would blatantly ask, “Do you have children?  How many?  How old?”.  The manager’s rationale was that if they were teenage boys, they would become a problem on the property.

Rightfully, those questions should not even be asked – even if you think it and even if it has proven to be so.  If an applicant wanted to, that could be a discrimination case right there.  The proper thing to ask is “how many people will be living in the apartment”.  That would verify compliance with occupancy standards to make sure there is no case of overcrowding.  If an applicant had the slightest inkling of the reasons the manager asked about children or had knowledge of the Fair Housing laws (majority don’t) , that’s an easy case with the Department of Human Rights.

Now I don’t know about other states but in NY, even when the case works out in the landlord’s favor (I’ve seen it go both ways), it’s costly to the landlord to prove that there was no case of discrimination while it costs nothing to the applicant.  Therefore, it’s better to avoid kid questions all together!

Another important question to avoid is “where do you work?”  Why should that matter?  All the manager/landlord needs to know is if you work and verify your income and credit to make sure you can afford the apartment.  The manager I keep referring back too would again go against the rules and ask where they worked.  The rationale was that city and state workers are easily collectible if they don’t pay, and those jobs are hard to lose therefore the manager would rather rent to them.  Private sector jobs are easy to lose.

Now while said manager may not have said this to applicants, in talking to them it was implied on many occasions by lines such as, “We have mostly city and state workers here.  We love them!”, to a city worker coming in for an application.  Meanwhile, the person standing right behind the city worker does not work for the city or state and gets an entire different (discouraging) experience when they inquire about an apartment.  I strongly advise against these tactics.  It can surely come back to bite you in the ass!

Lastly, do not give different rental rates to people based on whether or not you think they will pay the rent.  For example, if someone comes in with a section 8 voucher or any other type of government housing program, DO NOT give them a different rent price than what you would give a full rent paying applicant.  I’ve seen where a higher price was quoted for an apartment in hopes that the subsidy voucher could not cover it.  City and State officials do send out inspectors who pretend to be applicants in order to investigate discriminatory practices from landlords.  If you get found out, you will have a big problem on your hands.

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Overall as a landlord/manager, your best bet is to be FAIR. Hence Fair Housing laws. If you have a standard procedure for applying to your apartments, it should apply to everyone who applies.  Once you do a background check, that’s what you base your approval or rejection on.  If a person has good credit and debt to income ratio is within your rental guidelines, then turn that vacancy into an occupied.

Thanks for visiting MeeshMoves and if you have any questions or need a consultation, send me a message with your contact information.  I love using my personal experience to help others!

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